Preface - Riding through the Middle Land - The Wake Up call!

 Such a lovely morning...nice N sunny....sunny?? Today...?? Shit!!!!! What time is it...??? Those were the exact sequence of thoughts when i woke up at 06.32 hrs for a flight at 07.30 hrs....

Alarm failed...uber call failed....dad called...again failed......and finally the Sun woke me up... 

It took me 5 seconds to arrive at a plan B,   and 10 seconds to convince myself to give the original plan a shot. Desperate call to my younger brother, the mad rush to get to the airport.... ....5 min into which I realized that my wallet is still napping in the cupboard......a frantic u-turn.... to  collect it...and back on the road again...only to reach the airport in 20 min, rushing  through the check-in (thanks to a few friends who had  managed to convince Indigo on letting me in), and finally boarding the flight with all the passengers.....without making anyone wait.....

The adventure had begun with an adventure!!! 

Wait, what adventure??

As you get older N older, you try to prove to the world or rather yourself, that age is just a number. So here I was, 5 years after the epic Manali - Leh - Khardung la cycling expedition, back on the cycle, this time attempting to ride an estimated distance of roughly 680 km, from  Narkanda to Manali via Chandrataal and Spiti.  

For those who thrive on data and facts, this is what we had planned

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 Roughly 680 km

Route - Narkanda - Sarhan - Sangla -(Chitkul) - Pooh - Nako - Tabo -  (Dhankar) - Kaza - (Kibber) - Losar - Chandrataal - Rohtang - Manali

Max elevation - 4590m

Number of days -  10 

Average age of the team - 42 years ( yea.. i was amongst the youngsters on the trip, and no shame in saying that sometimes it was tough keeping up with the people in the lead :) ) 

 The trip promised to be a hell of a ride and the start definitely lived upto it.

In comparison, the rest of the day seemed pretty average. Seeing an airhostess  being blessed by an elderly passenger in the aisle of the airplane,(rare event) changing planes at Delhi  (done that a hundred times), met the other co passengers of the trip at Chandigarh (knew most of them) and finally boarded the bus to Narkanda. 

A quick stop for lunch at  Haveli restaurant, provided a glimpse into what was gonna be the norm for days to come. Scrumptious food and loads of it and washed down with Baskin & Robin's chocolate ice-cream. The probability of gaining weight at the end of the trip seemed rather high.

Tea breaks like these are a big respite for tired legs. The view just proved to be the cherry on the top

Tea breaks like these are a big respite for tired legs. The view just proved to be the cherry on the top

As  dusk approached  and we drove around the outskirts of Shimla, the nip in the air increased. Finally we reached Narkanda, our pit-stop for the next two days and were welcomed  by Hrushi and AC (captain).   

Construction continues on the Shimla bypass. 

Construction continues on the Shimla bypass. 

The day had  been a long one, but after the delicious and simple dinner served, no one could resist the temptation of a moonlit walk in the cold, crisp air of the Himalayas.   

 

All set for the acclimatisation ride !

All set for the acclimatisation ride !

The next day morning, after a hearty breakfast, we got to getting our saddles ready. Checking out the frames, putting on the saddles and bottle holders, checking the brakes - readying the brand new bikes was fun. Under the watchful eye of AC, all of us prepared our rides for the next 10 days and set out for a quick spin around the hills.  We were supposed to do a simple ride of 20 odd km to Tani Jubbar - a small man made lake in the hills - a place next to Kotgarh which I had visited a few years back. 

 

The ride to Tani Jubbar seemed pleasant, most of it being downhill through the pine forests. It did feel like this was going to be a cake walk, till we hit the last turn to the lake and that 200 mts of climb gave us a glimpse of what was gonna happen on the way back to the hotel.

Tani Jubbar the temple and the lake

Tani Jubbar the temple and the lake

A few photographs of the team at the lake (if you call that one) and we were back on the saddle, this time sweating it out on the road that climbed up towards Narkanda. 

Once back, the cycles were given another check, knowing Captain, this was just gonna be the routine everyday and then we retired for a simple but filling lunch.

The afternoon was at leisure and most of us spent it lazing around. Shilpa joined us a tad bit late, but more eager than all of us to start the ride.

Some of us were eyeing a trip to Hatu peak. It's one of the highest peaks in the vicinity and a good hike on a nice day. But we had strict instructions to rest our legs, so we decided to get on a truck and hitch a ride to the top. I had been to Hatu some 2-3 years back in December, when I had hiked my way to the top. That day had been bright and sunny, the cold December air being warmed just enough by the winter Sun, however today there was rain in the air. It was a fun ride up the mountain through the narrow twists and turns.

 The temple itself was shrouded in clouds with  zero visibility of the area. We spent some time at the top, waiting for the weather to clear, but our chances looked bleak. 

The ride back was even more fun, with the rain pelting down on us, we struggled to get under the tarpaulin at the back and hold it in place against the wind. Back in Narkanda, the Sun welcomed us and we stepped in the local coffee shop  for some hot drinks. 

Met this sweet little kid Kechen and his uncle (who was the owner of the restaurant) at the coffee shop. Kechen was in the town for his holidays and is the same age as my nephew. Initially reluctant to even look at me, the moment he saw the camera, he did not want to go away. :) had a great time with him. 

Met this sweet little kid Kechen and his uncle (who was the owner of the restaurant) at the coffee shop. Kechen was in the town for his holidays and is the same age as my nephew. Initially reluctant to even look at me, the moment he saw the camera, he did not want to go away. :) had a great time with him. 

Early dinner while watching Pakistan win the cricket match and all of us were off to bed - ready to hit the tarmac the next day morning at 5.30 am.  

The exploratory solitude

There are a few months in every year where I get bored of the life I am living and want to escape into the wilderness, be myself and as always go on a world tour. The last part of that wish has definitely been on your wish list at some point in time too. (if not... then it soon might be there) With a lot of my friends traveling solo across the world and Facebook doing a good job of rubbing it in, this year the travel itch started quite a bit early. Probably as early as the Indian Summer. As you all might know, the Indian summer is not exactly a great season to tour around the country so it was decided that this time, it will be the monsoons which I will welcome in the Western Ghats around Pune, giving the beloved Ecosport a monsoon drive and at the same time trying to capture some good clicks with the camera. However the delay in monsoons and the usual uncertainties of life, meant that most of my plans materialized only in my brain. 

So when this year the monsoon finally seemed likely to make an appearance in Pune on my Birthday weekend, it was decided that this Birthday would be celebrated in a slightly different manner. The idea was to set out on an overnight journey, with a set of clothes, camera and the car and go wherever the road takes you. Click pictures where nature mesmerizes you and halt wherever the body feels tired.  Though things didn't materialize as planned and I came back to spend the night at home on Saturday, the solo tour of Tamhini and Pabe did turn out to be a lot more fun than expected. 

View the entire shoot in the Tamhini & Pabe section by clicking on the image

View the entire shoot in the Tamhini & Pabe section by clicking on the image

A late start and incessant rains on Saturday meant that Tamhini was enjoyed more by drenching in the rains and experiencing the lovely sights that it had to offer than clicking pictures of the same. The drive through a relatively dry Mulshi dam and roads through forests hidden in cloud cover refreshed me instantly. After surviving a few heavy spells of showers which also allowed me to catch up on lunch, Tamhini finally cleared a bit allowing me to capture a few photos of clouds rolling down the mountains, waterfalls cascading over steep cliffs, the typical red state transport busses plying through the green forest and some paddy fields being planted. No trip in a monsoon is ever complete without a dip in one of the cold mountain streams gushing down in the valley below. So just before heading back, I stopped the car in front of one such stream got down and dipped myself in the cold crystal clear water.  Talk about getting a refreshment overdose :)  The journey back was pretty uneventful and by the time I reached back Pune it was pretty late in the evening. 


View the entire shoot in the Tamhini & Pabe section by clicking on the image

View the entire shoot in the Tamhini & Pabe section by clicking on the image

The next day, in the midst of attending phone calls from friends and family I set out to Pabe Ghat. From what I remembered of it, it seemed to provide an interesting and quite secluded route away from Pune. The weather seemed bright and sunny till I crossed Sinhgad, but after that it was incessant rains all throughout.  The drive to Pabe was excellent with tree lined roads winding up the hill to the top. Once up there, I walked up on the ridge only to soak in the few showers that decided to cross from one valley into another at that moment of time. After about an hour spent there enjoying the play of sunlight and the clouds, I finally moved towards Bhor. Unfortunately the monsoon or its associated rains had not even reached this side of the Western ghats and after a couple of clicks of the dry river beds and the arid lands, I decided to turn back towards Pune. 

Driving through clouds, dense forests, quaint little villages, fresh mountain air, cold mountain water gushing in the form of numerous waterfalls, amazing sights when the valley clears of clouds, bits and pieces of sunshine, no goals, no direction decided and no one but the occasional good song on radio for company... It turned out to be by far one of the best birthday celebration so far and allowed me some time with myself. With a promise to self, to travel solo more often and explore the country if not the world, I finally returned home.  

 

For more pictures of the trip check out the Tamhini & Pabe - July 2014 section at http://www.pratikpatki.com/places/

View the entire shoot in the Tamhini & Pabe section by clicking on the image

View the entire shoot in the Tamhini & Pabe section by clicking on the image